In the days before air flight a journey from Indonesia to Tibet required a boat ride across the Bay of Bengal and a trek through Burma, Bangladesh, and Bhutan, all told a distance of some 3,000 miles. In Queens—where time and space bend in strange, delicious ways—the two countries lie just down the street from one another. Or at least they do now that Himalaya Kitchen opened its doors a few days ago.
I first noticed Himalaya Kitchen the other day on a stretch of Whitney Avenue in Elmhurst better known for serving Indonesian fried chicken than Tibetan dumplings. I was leading a trek of my own, a food tour of Southeast Asian Elmhurst and Himalayan Heights. We’d already eaten plenty, plus the plan was to have those dumplings, or momo, at one of my favorite secret spots in Himalayan Heights. So I made a mental note to return to the new spot, which represents the southernmost Tibetan eatery in Queens.
The menu at Himalaya Kitchen is pretty deep. Per the awning’s promise, it leads with a greatest hits of Indian cuisine from tandoori items to biryanis. At the back is a modest list of Tibetan specialties, including the ubiquitous and tasty momo. At one time the space was home to Lao Bei Fang, a noodle soup and fried dumpling specialist.
The crescent shape of the tsak sha momo ($5), beef dumplings, and the sidecar of beef broth took me back to the days of Lao Bei Fang. That said the flavor of the dumplings was pure Tibetan, the beef flecked with chives, and ginger. Each crescent held just a bit of broth, and with the addition of sepen, a fiery gingery hot sauce was even better. Pausing between bites to sip the mellow broth I reflected that these momo—with their slightly tacky store bought skins—were not the best I’d ever eaten, but they were the very best momo at that very time.
And then I tasted the other hot sauce. It is remarkably different than the straight up chili paste served at many momo parlors in Himalayan Heights. The ruddy mixture of cooked down onions, peppers, and Sichuan peppercorns hums with a low base line of heat and incredible depth of flavor. Based on that one taste I can’t wait to see what else emerges from this kitchen. The question remains what to call this new ethnic enclave. Momohurst? Himalayahurst? Elmbet? I think I’ll keep it simple and just call it what is, Queens
Himalaya Kitchen, 86-08 Whitney Avenue, Elmhurst,718-213-3789